There’s a drive I take a couple of times a week along the same route. On that route there’s a little cottage just off the main road, where an elderly man lives. Every morning, he places two or three vases on the ground just past his front gate, full of the most beautiful flowers which I assume he grows in the little greenhouse in his garden. I have never seen him put them there, but, I have seen him taking them back in at night as I do this drive at around half 9 on a Wednesday evening after my art class.
He’s old; a bent figure, and walks slowly. The timing is perfect every single week – he’s always slowly standing back up after picking up the vases of flowers to take them in, just as I pass the part of the road where his house comes into sight. He shuffles then slowly back inside and has just closed the gate after himself as I pass. I usually spend the rest of my drive thinking about him.
There’s something about this that just catches me for some reason. I don’t know the man, I just know that he brightens up that boring stretch of road with a little bit of beauty. Why does he do it… does he sell them? I’m not sure, but I suspect that maybe the odd time a car might stop, and then just maybe he’ll have someone to talk to for a few minutes.
It enters my mind that he seems quite old and so the next thought that flickers for a second is, what if I turn the corner and there are no flowers out that day?
There’s something lovely about what he does, but something equally lonely about it. It just makes me think.
I always think to myself – the next time I’m passing during the day I’m going to stop and offer to pay for one of the flowers. Maybe he just wants the company, maybe he has so much of them he’s happy to just give them to someone who might want one. But, then the next day comes and I’m in too much of a hurry to get somewhere, or I’m running late, or I have the kids and they’ll only want to get out and grab all of the flowers… always some reason to drive on past and not stop.
(Literally, no time to stop and smell the roses!)
And then I’ll pass him again as he’s taking them in and so it goes. It makes me think.
All these little moments are passing us by. Do we stop and notice enough?
Of course not. Reality sets in and you’ve a million things that need to be done first, just get these few things sorted and then you’ll have time.
“What if I wait and you don’t showKatie Herzig, Closest I Get
If I left you half just to keep me whole
What if I held my breath so long
Would you notice the silence had lasted so long
What if the closest I get to the moment is now?”
Seeing these flowers and thinking of the man in the cottage always prompts me to think about how I focus on what’s important, or rather how I never seem to focus very long on what’s important. Of course it’s human nature, but seeing those flowers, and hearing one of my favourite songs makes me stop and take a second to tell myself – ‘focus on the now’.
Does anything change more rapidly than your own children, the most precious of things – right in front of your eyes and yet you don’t even see it until it’s a year down the line when you see a photo of them from just a few months ago, or when you notice all of a sudden that they can see all the way over the top of the kitchen table now when they stand on their tippy toes? I both love and hate these moments – I love them because of the magic of course but I hate them because they’re always a realisation of something I hadn’t noticed, and of time going too fast.
Close your eyes and imagine their fat little arms around your neck. One minute their little pudgy arms don’t even reach all the way around, the next, those same hands have met at the back of your neck as they snuggle into your shoulder.
Going for a walk, feel their hand in yours, the little size of it. Imagine that this little hand nestled in your palm will someday completely wrap itself around the whole of your hand..? So hard to imagine. And you know it, you’ll wonder how on earth it got to be that way and wasn’t it just yesterday that they were only as tall as your waist?
Sometimes I get sad over it, that it’s going too fast and I give out to myself for not appreciating it. But what’s the point of that – after all, it is inevitable, and so I’ve decided that all I can do is try and focus on the now. Tell them now, every day, how much they are loved. Appreciate them now, every day, for the little people that they are at the moment. I wish constantly that I could take the feel of their hands, their little cuddles, the sound of their laughter and the way they mispronounce their words, the sound of their little snores, the sticky smell of them from a day of playing and making messes… I wish I could wrap those things up in bubble wrap and package them in a little box, so I could take it out every so often and remember, so I’ll never forget all the tiny things that make them who they are today.
I can’t of course, so instead all I can do is stop, and notice, and hope the sounds and feels and smells all bury themselves into some corner of my mind that I can easily reach to years from now… because always, the closest we’ll get to the moment is now.
The next time I’m driving on that road past the cottage, I hope I’ll take the time stop and thank the man for the flower and tell him how he has given me more than just that flower… I hope I do.